Apple vs the Internet

I remember a time before App Stores, before controlled content, before Apple dominated personal devices. Hands-up, I like Apple devices and I really like how they’ve turned the Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) into fastest growth story the world has seen. It’s impressive.

But I have a little voice nagging away at the back of me. I have a similar problem with Apple now that I had with Microsoft in the mid-Nineties when the Seattle giant was trying to control the Internet. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now the way Apple is trying to drive every digital interaction through their filter. It feels evil.

The harsh reality is that Apple, in effect, betted against the (open) Internet and decided to create their own version, highly curated, stable, warm and so much better than the open wild-west that was (and still is) the open Internet. A curated view can be good, certainly all the while Apple remain a benevolent dictator but you have to wonder longer term about the decision of Apple to let Google launch their web browser on Apple devices.

Roger McNamee, the managing director and co-founder of venture capital firm Elevation Partners, has a theory about how Apple became the biggest U.S. technology growth story of all time and he shared it back in May at the cool Mashable Connect Friday. It makes for fascinating reading so I’ve taken some of the quotes and dropped them here. Cheers Mashable.

“The thing that made Apple successful was betting against the web,”

While Google adopted the cultural norms of the wired (HTML4) web by making its mobile operating system free and commoditizing content, Apple changed the game by keeping a closed system, focusing on brands and enabling paid apps.

Apple differentiated web content for a price. By doing so, McNamee believes, it created a fundamentally different model than what succeeded on the wired web.

“Most of all what Apple did was they charged $400 to $1,000 for the hardware that was necessary to get a differentiated user experience on data that 100% of their customers could get for free off a desktop device,” he said. “Every Apple customer has consciously voted with $400 to $1,000 against the world wide web.”

The result of that vote is a move away from the desktop experience of free, undifferentiated content. Mobile users don’t navigate the Internet with Google searches. They use apps, which deliver a better experience. And they spend much more time within those apps than on any web story.

Instead of needing tens of millions of lightly engaged users in order to be considered successful, McNamee hypothesizes that future success will come from smaller numbers of even more engaged — and thus more valuable — users.

It will, he believes, will be built not on the Google-controlled HTML4 web nor within Apple-controlled apps, but using HTML5, which allows for differentiated, engaged experiences without the downsides of the app store.

“The basic success factors going forward are going to be exactly opposite of those we’ve had in recent years,” he said.

With the growth of HTML5 we’ll see the dilution of the App Store effect and the rise of the open version of the Internet. In the meantime we’re being (sometimes) overly controlled by Apple who, by virtue of their success are being copied by Google and the rest to tech stocks. It’s time for a new Apple. Any candidates out there?